Eric Bledsoe, whose breakout 2013-14 season opened plenty of eyes around the NBA, is the last major free agent left on the market as the preseason rapidly approaches. After three solid but not remarkable seasons with the Clippers, the Kentucky product was traded to the Suns and saw his production skyrocket after recovering from an injury. The Clippers traded him knowing they likely would not be able to afford the price tag he was looking for this summer.
Although, his season was cut basically in half by a knee injury, he more than doubled his scoring output, shot nearly 50 percent from the field, and posted well-rounded numbers in both rebounds and assists per game. That is why his current status as a restricted free agent is so surprising and intriguing.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, recently down a star with the August trade of Kevin Love to the Cavaliers, were the latest team to make a push to acquire Bledsoe by offering a max contract. In order for that to actually come to fruition, though, a sign-and-trade would have to be worked out between Minnesota and Phoenix, and the price for his services would be pretty steep.
One of the main hold-ups between Bledsoe and his old team has been the player’s insistence on the Suns offering him the max contract he thought he deserved, a sentiment not shared by the Phoenix front office. Especially since Bledsoe is a restricted free agent and the Suns could wait to match any offer he received. No other teams made a move to sign Bledsoe to an offer sheet, and Bledsoe waited frustrated that he did not have an offer.
Yet, some movement on a possible extension between the two parties has been made, demonstrating the Suns’ unwillingness to let his talent slip away.
Surely, in a sign-and-trade with an intra-conference opponent in the Timberwolves, the Suns would be able to garner a nice haul of a combination of draft picks, players, cap considerations and trade exceptions. All reports are the Suns want a proven player in return for Bledsoe, something no team has been willing to offer as of yet.
However, even with incumbent Goran Dragic and recent pickup Isaiah Thomas already in place, Phoenix wants the explosive Bledsoe back on its roster, and it shows.
He is the type of universally coveted player that most teams would not let through their fingertips, even if it meant more of a pay raise than said team is willing to offer said player. Obviously, managing the salary cap is important, but breaking the bank just a little bit can be justified and encouraged in certain situations.
In this one, it appears as if it is the right move on the part of Phoenix general manager Ryan McDonough.